Photo by Kristy Rammel
It never ceases to amaze me how much of my life revolves around feces! From baby diapers to golden compost, much of my day is spent cleaning, shoveling or scooping poop.
We parents quickly learn about our children’s overall health through diaper changes. With each new nappy, we can assess fluid intake, fiber intake and other intakes that probably shouldn’t be there. At each pediatrician visit, we are questioned about bowel movements as if we are exchanging recipes: What’s the consistency? What color is it? What color should it be? Is this normal?
As homesteaders, we use our knowledge of poop to assess our animals’ health, as well. If an animal is a bit peaked, one of the first things we look at after obvious sign of injury is the droppings. Once again, we are plagued with the same questions: What’s the consistency? What color is it? Is this normal? We then use our findings to assist in developing our course of treatment.
However, treating an ailment is only half the battle. We also have to stop the possible spread of infection. This, of course, is a nightmare all on its own. For some, a simple bleach-water washing of the cages and feeders solves the problem, but I have to look at manure’s compostability, too. Anything that goes into my compost will eventually end up covering my garden, in my veggies and on my table.
Photo by Kristy Rammel
I am still learning the various illnesses animals come in contact with, as well as natural remedies to treat them. Although my knowledge is somewhat limited, there are several items in my first-aid arsenal I always keep on hand: fresh garlic, various essential oils, vinegar (both apple cider and white), mineral oil and rubbing alcohol to name a few. I strongly suggest researching any remedy prior to introducing it to your home or your livestock. While some tonics can be very useful, some can also exacerbate a problem.
Still, even armed with your spray bottles of homemade antiseptics, antiparasitics and antifungals, in order to truly treat the disease problem, you have to treat every single solitary potential host in the entire flippin’ area!
The chickens scratch around under the rabbit cages, picked up problem “x,” carry it back to the coop that night, and spread it everywhere. That means I end up having to clean both the rabbit cages and the chicken coop. But, don’t forget you were out there cleaning, and now problem “x” is now on your boots which you just took off at the back door! If you don’t clean them, as well, you could track it right back tomorrow when you go out to collect the eggs!
I am probably a little bit of a freak when it comes to stopping illnesses before they spread, but with so much time, money and energy invested in our farm, we kind of have to be. If someone in your house gets a stomach bug, chances are you isolate them like they have some sort of incurable disease, while you race through the house trying to clean anything they might have touched in the last 24 hours. If you’ve never experienced this type of frenzy before, it’s probably because you’ve never had to pass out personalized buckets to a house full of sick folks because there wasn’t a free bathroom or clean towel to be found!
Yes, being so close to the “farm-to-table” process has probably intensified my fanatical side a wee bit, but it has also given me incredible appreciation and understanding of the fragility of it all. They say you can tell a lot about a person by the way they walk, but I say you can tell a lot about a person by what goes in their compost!